Terror Tuesday Report: The Oracle

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The Film

A young woman and her husband move into their dream apartment for far less than they thought it would cost; suspiciously so. Turns out the source of the bargain is the mysterious death of the old lady who formerly resided in the apartment. She managed to vanish into thin air while playing a bizarre board game that allows her to communicate with the dead. The game, which finds its way into the new tenant’s possession begins to reach out to her and she becomes convinced it is the key to solving a murder. Unfortunately, in its fervor to persuade her to solve this murder the game gleefully knocks off every one around her.

The Oracle is profoundly bad. That is not to say that it fails in quite the spectacular fashion as something like Boardinghouse or Night Train to Terror. The Oracle manages a certain level of technical cohesiveness which automatically elevates far above those two cinematic abortions, but it is also stale as month-old bread. It takes itself far too seriously thereby defusing any possibility for the audience to glean entertainment value from this dry yarn. It’s not quite bad enough to be fun while nowhere near good enough to be appreciated; existing on a nebulous middle plain.

Director Roberta Findlay, for all her desperate flailing toward legitimacy, lets her porn roots peek through in The Oracle. The unnecessary love scene is soft-lit and pointlessly erotic given the fact that type of movie she’s professing to make. There is also an unhealthy prevalence of scummy mustaches to serve as a furry reminder of Findlay’s earlier work. When she’s not falling back on what she knows, Findlay steals from far better films. The opening interactions between the mad “man” and the prostitute–all the way up to her grisly demise–are wholesale stolen from William Lustig’s seminal Maniac. Just lousy directing effort overall.

THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT, Review – Editing Room Scares for Kids.

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Directed by Peter Cornwell, 2009
Written by Adam Simon & Tim Metcalfe

I could recommend THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT to any 13 year old boy or girl.  I stress that I could make such a recommendation, but I don’t know any 13 year olds and even if I did, I’m not sure I’d want to recommend it to them.  There is so much more to enjoy in the world, so much more to get thrills from.  I don’t want to complain that THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT sucks because I’ve seen all of this stuff before.  Though that is a true statement, it wouldn’t be fair and it is too obvious.  Yes, I’ve seen it all, but this PG-13 Hollywood fare is not made for me nor is it marketed to me.  Yet because I’m the kind of horror guy who eventually ends up seeing everything, in an ancillary way, it was made for me.

That being the roundabout case, THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT sucks.  I’ve seen this all before, you’ve seen it all before.  Shrug.  I guess it had to be said.  This is just another in a string of “Based on a True Story so Long as You Don’t Know how to use Wikipedia” films, which is probably my least respected horror niche right behind torture porn.  I’m not sure anything in horror annoys me more than cavalier use of the “Based on a True Story” market bait, so HIC was, to be honest, running a fixed race to begin with.  I’m not going to apologize for that though.  It’s not my fault I’ve got a brain.


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Written and Directed by Sopon Sukdapisit, 2008

It’s no secret that I am partial to Thai horror.   Because the US has no counterpart to it, I envy the genuine superstition for the afterlife found in Thai culture.  We have no nation spanning fears of spirits, which is precisely why American horror pales in the ghost department to that of the Asian rim.  Sure, we can do our slashers and our monsters with the best of them as that’s all guttural, but we’re a spiritually incongruous nation and our cinema is lacking for it.

When it comes to Thai horror no one has more enthusiasm for the fears of the afterlife than Sopon Sukdapisit, who wrote the two biggest horror films to come out of the nation to date: SHUTTER and ALONE, the latter of which is arguably the most successful as well.  COMING SOON marks the first time Sukdapisit takes on both scripting and directing duties, proving off the bat up to the task with one of the most gripping openers I’ve seen in recent memory.

A little girl awakens on a heavily soiled mattress in a dank room.  Startled by the dead body laying next to her, the girl hides in the corner as the door slides open and an hysterical corpse of an old woman brandishing a knife best suited for use in a fish market enters the room, searching its shadows for the little girl all the while dragging a hobbled foot behind her.  The girl can’t hide forever and soon the crazy old lady forces her to the dinner table where her “brothers and sisters” paw at bowls of rice unable to see thanks to bloody eyelids with no eyes to cover.

Meanwhile a band of parents are searching the abandoned house, eventually coming upon the old woman’s room.  All is too late.  The little girl has joined her “brothers and sisters” and the parents are left with a roomful of eyeless children.  While the mothers sob uncontrollably the fathers string up the psychotic old woman, set to hang her burned and nearly hairless body from the rafters.

Hell of an opener.  If only things stayed that way.

Review: 100 FEET

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Written and Directed by Eric Red, 2008

Having just been released from the pen for murdering her abusive husband Mike, Marnie (Famke Janssen) begins her final year of servitude by way of house arrest.  Should she stray more than the titular distance from her ankle monitor’s base unit in the center of her Brooklyn brownstone, said unit will page Lou (Bobby Cannavale), the pissed off cop and former partner to Marnie’s slaughtered spouse.  This is problematic for Marnie as a slightly less corporeal yet no less abusive Mike has stuck around to give his wife what for from the afterlife.

Eric Red’s directorial return is a probing tour of a beaten woman’s battered life more than it is a horror film, if only because the ghost side undercurrent is low exertion versus Famke Janssen’s perpetual emotional gauntlet.  The gal gives one heck of an admirable turn, carrying the film by the scruff of its neck throughout.  That is not to say that 100 FEET is lacking the meat and potatoes of a good haunt.  Quite the opposite, actually.  100 FEET executes two film clinching sequences worth going down as two of the cooler, wilder poltergeist-gags found on film.

Regrettably, these two sequences are not characteristic of the film entire.  When not belting it out of the park (albeit in minute spurts), Red is either reinforcing the already unsinkable Marnie as an anomalous, complicated damsel in distress through melodrama or playing standard spook setups to telegraphed conclusions.  Por ejemplo, When we first see Marnie paint over her husband’s blood stain (which hadn’t been cleaned during her jail time) anyone who has ever been in the same room as a horror movie will know its reappearance is inevitable.  A blood stain that doesn’t go away is not an ultimate evil.  The audience is not Mr. Clean.  We need a reminder there is a ghost in the house as much as a smoker needs a skull and cross bones on his favorite pack.  This isn’t our first time to the rodeo.  Move on.

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